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The Solomon Islands include six large islands and nine hundred and six smaller ones. Lying northeast of Australia, east of Papua New Guinea, and northwest of Vanuatu, in the South Pacific Ocean, the islands are part of the Pacific region known as Melanesia. The Solomon Islands are the second largest in the Melanesia chain of islands. The six main islands are Guadalcanal, Malaita, Makira, Santa Isabel, Choiseul, and New Georgia.

Guadalcanal is the main island in the Guadalcanal Province of the Solomon Islands group. The island has a mountainous interior and is mostly covered by a dense tropical rainforest. Guadalcanal was discovered by Álvaro de Mendaña, a Spanish explorer, in 1568 and named for a village in Spain. During World War II, the island was the site of a six-month battle, known as the Guadalcanal Campaign, in which American troops were eventually victorious over the Japanese troops which held the island at the start.

At the conclusion of the War, the capital of the British Solomon Islands Protectorate was moved to Guadalcanal from the Florida Islands, a small island group that is now known as the Nggela Islands.

In early 1999, violent conflicts arose between the local Guale people on Guadalcanal Island and more recent immigrants on the nearby island of Malaita. The Guadalcanal Revolutionary Army began a campaign intended to drive the Malaitans from their homes on Guadalcanal. The capital city of Honiara became a Malaitan enclave. Although a peace was negotiated, the Guadalcanal Revolutionary Army became the Isatabu Freedom Movement, which remains active.

Malaita is northeast of Guadalcanal, north of Makira, and southeast of Santa Isabel. Mountainous, the island's tropical forests and river systems have not been exploited. After Guadalcanal, Malaita is the second largest island of the Solomon Islands group. Locally, the island is often referred to as Mala. The island's climate is very wet, and earthquakes are common. Malaitans are not ethnically the same people as those native to neighboring Guadalcanal, nor do they look the same. Known as the Kwaio, their hair color ranges from black to dark brown, reddish blond, yellow, or whitish blond. The traditional religion of the island is one of ancestor worship. With European contact, several missionaries were killed trying to evangelize the island. Although in recent years the Jehovah's Witnesses and Seventh-day Adventists have had some success, the Kwaio have been resistant to Christianity.

The third largest of the Solomon Islands is Makira, east of Guadalcanal and south of Malaita. Formerly known as San Cristobal, the islands native inhabitants are the Makira and the Ulawa people, who are mostly Melanesian. Mountains traverse the island's center, and several rivers run in mostly parallel lines every few miles. The island has more inland swamps and saltwater crocodiles than of the other Solomon Islands.

Santa Isabel Island is the longest of the islands in the Solomon Islands group, having the fourth largest surface area. Santa Isabel is southeast of Choiseul, northwest of Malaita, and north of Guadalcanal. The first contact that the Europeans had with the Solomon Islands was at Santa Isabel in 1568, and a small Spanish settlement was established there. Explorations from Santa Isabel led to the discovery of the islands of Ali'ite, Choiseul, Guadalcanal, Makira, Malaita, Malaupaina, Malaulaio, Savo, Ugi, Ulawa, and Vangunu. Plagued by attacks from islanders, the Spanish abandoned their colony on Santa Isabel in favor of Guadalcanal. The people of Santa Isabel speak eight native languages, as well as English and Solomon Islands Pijin.

Choiseul Island is known as Lauru locally. It is situated in the northwest part of the Solomon Islands, southeast of Papua New Guinea and north of the New Georgia Islands. Choiseul was not originally part of the British Solomon Islands but was part of the German New Guinea Colony. In 1899, Germany ceded Choiseul to the British, at which time it was included among the Solomon Islands. The native people of Choiseul are members of several Melanesian tribes. As recently as the 20th century, Choiseul islanders had a reputation as cannibals.

The New Georgia Islands are northwest of Guadalcanal. The main island of the subgroup is New Georgia, Ghizo, Kolombangara, Rendova, Tetepare, Vangunu, and Vella Lavella. The central region of New Georgia is the place of origin for the Roviana culture. A large complex of megalithic shrines was constructed there in the 13th-century AD. Today, there are ten native languages spoken on the island.

Today, the Solomon Islands are a constitutional monarchy, with the British monarch locally represented by a Governor-General, who must be a citizen of the Solomon Islands, serving as titular head of state. Executive power is exercised by a Prime Minister elected by Parliament.

 

 

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